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Sometimes gay-friendly Tijuana

LGBT rights parades contrast with restrictive legislation

At the May 17 march recognizing el dia nacional de la lucha contra la homofobia, people carried signs that criticized Baja's governor.
At the May 17 march recognizing el dia nacional de la lucha contra la homofobia, people carried signs that criticized Baja's governor.

“Governor Quiko [Kiko] Vega violates rights of trans.”

“Religions: Stop promoting trans assassinations.”

“Stop the abuse by policemen against trans in Tijuana.”

“To be trans is not a sin nor a disease.”

These were just a few of the cardboard signs (translated from Spanish) I read during the LGBT march against homophobia on Sunday, May 17th, in Tijuana.

Men with versions of the rainbow flag fronted the parade. Trans women followed, holding signs demanding their rights. Behind them, a couple of cars with women had “Fan Les Tj” written on their windows. At the end of the march, two large flatbed trucks were filled with people waving flags and dancing merrily. The march ended by the arch downtown, where a stage hosted numerous performances.

“COCUT [Comunidad Cultural de Tijuana] was the group that organized the march,” psychologist Andrés Gaeta of Centro SER, told me via email. “The trans group GISAT [Grupo de Información, Superación y Apoyo Trans] joined in, as well as rehab center Jardin de las Mariposas [“Butterfly Garden”], AHF [AIDS Healthcare Foundation], Radio Arcoiris [“Rainbow Radio”], and more groups that escape my mind at the moment.”

Andrés Gaeta forgot to mention his own group, Centro SER, a volunteer service center that provides free HIV testing, needle exchange, sexual health advice, therapy, support groups, and more.

“May 17th is the international day of fighting against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia,” Gaeta wrote. “By a presidential decree since 2014, Mexico recognizes the date as ‘Dia nacional de la lucha contra la homofobia.’ Basically it’s a day where we demand to have the same rights as heterosexuals and cisgenders. It’s a day to demand access to education and health without discrimination; equal marriage and access to modify legal documents to change the identity of trans men and women.”

Though Tijuana appears to be a gay-friendly city, legislation falls far behind. The sex industry is filled with violence, abuse, and murder, sometimes by the same police who arrest men, women, and trans women who work as street prostitutes. Discrimination in the workplace is worse against trans women: more than 90 percent of trans women can't get a job and resort to working in the streets.

A gay ex-neighbor who lived downtown told me a story a few years ago about how he got arrested in the middle of the day for not having his ID. He was on his way to buy a kilo of tortillas for his lunch and was carrying only a few pesos. The cops stopped him under the premise of routine inspection. When he failed to provide an ID, he said he was arrested and tortured.

They stripped him of his clothes, hosed him with cold water, and told him to stick the money he was carrying up his ass if he valued his freedom. He moved out after another incident of abuse more than two years ago and I never heard from him again.

“A few weeks ago, the state governor of Baja violated trans’ rights by stopping the process for a transgender girl to switch gender identity in her documents.”

Mexico, as a country, has advanced greatly in LGBT rights in recent years, following the trend of first-world countries. On May 17th, president Peña Nieto started an initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the whole country. As of now, you cannot same-sex marry in Baja (and 19 other states in Mexico, which has 31) or switch genders on official documents.

“Every year in Centro SER,” says Gaeta, “we have a night of trans memorial, to remember the trans girls that were assassinated by hate crimes. I don’t know the registries of this year or last, since I was out of town, but authorities never report it anyway, and it all stays as anecdotes.

"It’s the same case with police abuse: the ones who suffer the most by the police are transgender women who work in the sex industry. If you want to know more about the trans population or hear more about human-rights violations, the support group GISAT gathers every Tuesday in Centro SER.”

More pride marches are scheduled this summer, such as La Marcha de las Putas on June 19th, a march to defend everyone’s rights no matter their gender; and the XXI LGBT pride parade, on June 25th.

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At the May 17 march recognizing el dia nacional de la lucha contra la homofobia, people carried signs that criticized Baja's governor.
At the May 17 march recognizing el dia nacional de la lucha contra la homofobia, people carried signs that criticized Baja's governor.

“Governor Quiko [Kiko] Vega violates rights of trans.”

“Religions: Stop promoting trans assassinations.”

“Stop the abuse by policemen against trans in Tijuana.”

“To be trans is not a sin nor a disease.”

These were just a few of the cardboard signs (translated from Spanish) I read during the LGBT march against homophobia on Sunday, May 17th, in Tijuana.

Men with versions of the rainbow flag fronted the parade. Trans women followed, holding signs demanding their rights. Behind them, a couple of cars with women had “Fan Les Tj” written on their windows. At the end of the march, two large flatbed trucks were filled with people waving flags and dancing merrily. The march ended by the arch downtown, where a stage hosted numerous performances.

“COCUT [Comunidad Cultural de Tijuana] was the group that organized the march,” psychologist Andrés Gaeta of Centro SER, told me via email. “The trans group GISAT [Grupo de Información, Superación y Apoyo Trans] joined in, as well as rehab center Jardin de las Mariposas [“Butterfly Garden”], AHF [AIDS Healthcare Foundation], Radio Arcoiris [“Rainbow Radio”], and more groups that escape my mind at the moment.”

Andrés Gaeta forgot to mention his own group, Centro SER, a volunteer service center that provides free HIV testing, needle exchange, sexual health advice, therapy, support groups, and more.

“May 17th is the international day of fighting against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia,” Gaeta wrote. “By a presidential decree since 2014, Mexico recognizes the date as ‘Dia nacional de la lucha contra la homofobia.’ Basically it’s a day where we demand to have the same rights as heterosexuals and cisgenders. It’s a day to demand access to education and health without discrimination; equal marriage and access to modify legal documents to change the identity of trans men and women.”

Though Tijuana appears to be a gay-friendly city, legislation falls far behind. The sex industry is filled with violence, abuse, and murder, sometimes by the same police who arrest men, women, and trans women who work as street prostitutes. Discrimination in the workplace is worse against trans women: more than 90 percent of trans women can't get a job and resort to working in the streets.

A gay ex-neighbor who lived downtown told me a story a few years ago about how he got arrested in the middle of the day for not having his ID. He was on his way to buy a kilo of tortillas for his lunch and was carrying only a few pesos. The cops stopped him under the premise of routine inspection. When he failed to provide an ID, he said he was arrested and tortured.

They stripped him of his clothes, hosed him with cold water, and told him to stick the money he was carrying up his ass if he valued his freedom. He moved out after another incident of abuse more than two years ago and I never heard from him again.

“A few weeks ago, the state governor of Baja violated trans’ rights by stopping the process for a transgender girl to switch gender identity in her documents.”

Mexico, as a country, has advanced greatly in LGBT rights in recent years, following the trend of first-world countries. On May 17th, president Peña Nieto started an initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the whole country. As of now, you cannot same-sex marry in Baja (and 19 other states in Mexico, which has 31) or switch genders on official documents.

“Every year in Centro SER,” says Gaeta, “we have a night of trans memorial, to remember the trans girls that were assassinated by hate crimes. I don’t know the registries of this year or last, since I was out of town, but authorities never report it anyway, and it all stays as anecdotes.

"It’s the same case with police abuse: the ones who suffer the most by the police are transgender women who work in the sex industry. If you want to know more about the trans population or hear more about human-rights violations, the support group GISAT gathers every Tuesday in Centro SER.”

More pride marches are scheduled this summer, such as La Marcha de las Putas on June 19th, a march to defend everyone’s rights no matter their gender; and the XXI LGBT pride parade, on June 25th.

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